30 Days Wild - Day 1

 30 Days Wild - Day 1 ~ 1st June 2015 ~ 

Today not only marks the start of June, but also the start of the Wildlife Trusts' 30 Days Wild campaign. The 30 Days Wild challenge is a month long campaign to try and get people to do something wild everyday for 30 days.

This is the promotional video for the campaign:

To kick off my month of wildness, I had planned to get up sharpish this morning and head to patch with my dog. 

However, yesterday (Sunday) I was out for a couple of hours volunteering with my local countryside rangers and we were re-surfacing a bridleway. This involved a lot of shovelling and wheel-barrowing gravel and hoggin and, being the completely unfit and stubborn individual that I am, not only did I refuse to take a break (until my back got very sore) but I also stuck to using the spade instead of opting for the easier option of raking... Enough complaining though, I had a fantastic few hours as it was great fun and the company was super as usual! But back to my reason for this little ramble - this morning I woke up with a very stiff back and ached all over so instead of getting up and starting my day, I rolled over and went back to sleep for another hour or so.

So, this brings me to my main wildlife encounter today which wasn't really so much of an encounter, more an observation (prepare yourselves for some rambling and a bit of a back story that is somewhat unrelated to my wildlife observation from today...you have been warned!).

Since I got my C permit for bird ringing back in October last year, I have had a 9 metre net open whenever I can to try and catch the birds that visit my garden. It has been really interesting actually, especially with regards to the Blue Tits (and Robins, but they're not part of this story)!  So far, I have ringed 28 full grown Blue Tits of varying ages and only 2 of them I have re-trapped. 

Blue Tit with ring number Z241905 is a bird I ringed last October and was in fact only the 6th bird I ringed as a 'C' ringer. I aged it as a 4, meaning it was hatched before the current calendar year (so in October it was at least 2 years old). I then re-trapped Z241905 in March this year.

In the garden I take time, when I can, to observe the birds; watching them intently and looking at the different behaviours they exhibit and any changes in their behaviour as well. Around the middle of March, a pair of Blue Tits began building a nest in the nest box right outside our back doors and while watching them carry beak-fulls of nesting material into the box, I noticed that once of the birds was ringed. On all of the birds I catch, I fit the ring on their right leg, unless I have reason to do otherwise. I had no way of knowing which individual the bird was unless I could get a clear photo of the ring, or unless I re-captured it. With this in mind, I opened my net for a few hours to see if I could catch the individual and thus know which bird it was that had taken a fancy to our nest box.

All the while the nest building was going on, I notice that the number of Blue Tits visiting our garden had greatly reduced and I was fairly sure it was down to just two birds. This is because over the winter food natural food sources become scarcer and so birds become concentrated at reliable food sources, plus they don't have to worry about breeding, only surviving each day and night as they come.

So anyway, I'd set the net for a few hours and the ringed Blue Tit kept managing to avoid it - either going over the top or round the side. I did however catch an un-ringed bird and so duly ringed and processed it as normal, with one minor exception - I fitted the ring onto the bird's left leg. I did this because I suspected that it was the partner of the already ringed bird and so this would make it easier to distinguish the two in the field without the need for re-capturing either individual. Blue Tit Z465506 is this individual, whom I ringed on 23rd March this year and I aged as a 6, meaning that it was hatched before the previous calendar year. I also then re-trapped Z465506 on 7th April. 

The only issue was that I still didn't know who the ring on right leg bird was, as there were a number of possibilities. But, not wanting to disturb or put off the Blue Tits during the crucial time of nest-building and egg laying, I did not set the net until eggs were laid.

Once eggs had been laid in the nest, Z465506 (the male) would come up to a perch near the nest box, make a little cheeping noise and vibrate his wings slightly and then the female would come out of the box and fly off to the bushes, shortly followed by the male. This was a regular pattern of behaviour that the two birds exhibited regularly and so one day after the whole clutch of eggs (10) had been laid and incubated for a few days, I set the net again in an attempt to catch the female as she flew off from the box. I was very lucky and managed to catch her the first time she flew off and I was able to confirm my suspicions that she was in fact individual Z241905 whom I'd first caught some 5 months previously.

Anyway, to cut what is already a long and rambling story short(er), the pair laid 10 eggs, of which at least 8 hatched. 7 young made it to IP stage (feathers in pin) and 6 of them made it to FS (feathers short - 1/3 grown) and were ringed by myself at that stage. All 6 remaining young fledged successfully and although I haven't seen them since they fledged, I hope they are doing ok somewhere and that I see them again one day back in my garden!

Back to my wild observation from today: I was just making some phone calls and writing some emails when I glanced outside and saw some fluttering wings in the Buddleia. I went and grabbed my bins off the stairs and headed back to the window. I was delighted with what I saw, which was 3, or was it 4, recently fledged Blue Tits all clamouring for the attention of one of the two adult birds working tirelessly to feed their ravenous youngsters. All 4 young looked very well and were starting to forage for themselves as well. It was a lovely sight and after being a pretty rubbish day weather-wise I certainly felt much better afterwards! No photos though unfortunately...maybe next time!

If you've made it this far, well done. I do seem to ramble o rather well a lot of the time, for which I apologise!

Have a wild June and if you haven't signed up for the challenge already, here's a link to do so: http://action.wildlifetrusts.org/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1823&ea.campaign.id=37961

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